Q. Can rhubarb be successfully grown in the south?

A. Rhubarb is a popular garden vegetable in northern areas of the United States but unfortunately will not do well in the south. Rhubarb, a cold-resistant perennial, thrives where maximum daytime temperatures average no more than 90 degrees F. Therefore, it will not grow well in most areas of the south and will produce only thin leaf stalks which are spindly and lack color.


Description - Rhubarb is grown for its tasty leaf petioles. The leaves are large and somewhat heart-shaped and the plant may grow to a height of several feet. It is a perennial (grows from year to year) and the young, tender petioles are harvested in the early spring. The leaves are cut to within an inch of the petiole tip at harvest, so you see just a small fraction of the leaf in the retail market.

Culture - Rhubarb will not grow well in any area of Texas. For good growth it requires moist, cool summers and winters sever enough to freeze the ground to a depth of several inches. An unknown variety with large green petioles thrives in the Panhandle north of Amarillo.

Selection - Select petioles that are bright pink, crisp and free of disease or insect damage. Young, dark pink, smaller diameter petioles are sweeter and more tender than thick, long green ones.

Availability - Commonly found in Texas supermarkets, fresh rhubarb is prized by gourmet cooks. The finest quality rhubarb is shipped to Texas from Michigan, Ontario, Canada, and other northern states in the U. S. Fresh rhubarb is available from early winter through early summer. Winter rhubarb of the highest quality is produced in forcing houses in Michigan and Ontario.

Storage - Cut all the leaf from the rhubarb petiole and the petioles will keep well in the refrigerator for two to three weeks in sealed plastic bags.

Nutrition Information - Rhubarb is a fair source of potassium, contributes minor amounts of vitamins, and is low in sodium. One cup diced rhubarb contains about 26 calories.

Preparation - Discard any leaves and trim the ends. Peeling rhubarb is unnecessary. Rhubarb requires sweetening to minimize the extreme tartness. It can be served as a sauce over ice cream, combined with fresh strawberries, or made into pies, tarts, puddings, breads, jam, jellies, and refreshing beverages.

Microwave Instructions - Wash about one pound of fresh rhubarb and cut into one inch pieces (about four cups). Place in 2-quart covered casserole with 1/4 cup water and microwave on high for six to eight minutes. Stir every two minutes.

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